After a lengthy absence from the Trip Reports forum, I return with a three part report that outlines a trip that I’ve been dreaming about doing for the past three years. I remember having a few beers with my father and talking about his dream of sailing from Vancouver to Brisbane, Australia and while discussing the feasibility of it, we started looking at a theoretical route that he may take. While doing that, I came across the Cook Islands. I must admit that I never gave too much thought of what exactly lies between North America and Australia, generally thinking “Well there’s Hawaii, Fiji and lots of other little islands in the South Pacific.” Rarely was I interested to look into their location, let alone reading into their history, political status or economy.
Slowly, I became more and more interested, especially in Tahiti and The Cook Islands. After playing around with the idea of visiting French Polynesia, I quickly realized that it’s a bit out of my price range, so I focused more and more on the “Cooks”. My then girlfriend and I started to seriously discuss a trip there, but there were still other obligations in terms of visiting family in Europe, so spending money on a South Pacific vacation was not at the top of our priorities.
In December 2011, I asked her to marry me and (lucky for me) she accepted. We started looking into a wedding date & location. After different ideas, including a destination wedding, we decided to be thoughtful of our relatives and have a wedding in Canada, since most of my family and friends are in Windsor, Ontario chose to have it there and the wedding date set for June 9 2012. We decided to have our honeymoon somewhere special, and without hesitation we quickly decided to go to The Cook Islands, more specifically, Rarotonga.
To find out more about The Cook Islands, you can visit the Wikipedia site, by clicking on the link below:
At first I thought I would have to fly through Auckland, New Zealand, but to my surprise Air New Zealand has a weekly flight direct from Los Angeles to Avarua, the capital, located on the largest island Rartonga. So finally our dream vacation was a reality. Since her and I have been living in Winnipeg for the past 18 months, we also had to get to Windsor. Well that’s a pretty straight forward process, since we have very little choice. It was either Air Canada to Windsor, via Toronto or direct flight with WestJet to London, Ontario (200 km Northeast) of Windsor and then have someone pick us up. I don’t like to complicate things, especially since the price difference wasn’t worth the hassle, so we booked Air Canada/AC Jazz.
As you can imagine, the weeks leading to the wedding were a little hectic and I didn’t really have time to think too much about the honeymoon. Besides, the wedding was our primary concern. We wanted to make sure that all our guests, some of which were travelling from Toronto, Montreal,Chicago, Calgary, Vancouver and even Brisbane, Australia (my little sister) would be taken care of and would have a great time.
So below you can see the “route” we took for these 5 flights:
Date: Thursday June 7 2012
Airline: Air Canada
Flight No: : AC 258
Aircraft: : Airbus A319-114 (cn695)
Registration: : C-FYKW
Departure: : Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson Int. Airport (YWG/CYWG) (6:45)
Arrival: : Toronto Lester B. Pearson Int. Airport (YYZ/CYYZ) (10:05)
Flight Time : 2h 20m
We woke up quite early on the day of our departure. We had to be there at least an hour prior to departure. After ensuring that our house we left in order, and a few “double/triple checks” on my behalf we finally were able to relax a bit and enjoy our taxi ride to the airport. Since it was so early in the morning, we were one of the first people to check in for our flight to Toronto. My fiancé’s primary concern was her wedding dress which we brought with us from Winnipeg. We checked a large suitcase, a mountaineering backpack and we each had a carry on with us… as large as the airline would allow it. Security check in was a breeze and in no time we were at our gate, fairly early though. We boarded quickly and after a long taxi to runway 18, we took off towards the South, then a left turn on-course toward Toronto.
The external departure area at Winnipeg James Armstrong Int’l Airport looks quite empty at this early hour.
Check in area of the newly opened terminal at YWG:
Gabriela, on our way to the gate:
Empty departure area:
Local operators that one will find quite common in Winnipeg:
Our aircraft at the gate:
Taxiing to the active runway:
Rolling down runway 18:
Canadian Forces’ 17 Wing hangars:
St. James area of Winnipeg:
Climb-out from Winnipeg:
The flight to Toronto was non-eventful. The service seemed fine and since both of us were tired, we didn’t feel like doing much, so I just took photos and Gabriela tried to sleep. With a few exceptions, the entire flight was free of clouds, so I was able to get a good view and take some photos of our arrival / landing into Toronto. We came from the Northwest and pretty much joined flew East until passing Pearson, then right turn to join the ILS for runway 23. The taxi was rather long all the way to Terminal 1, but I didn’t mind. YYZ is the first airport in Canada that I flew into and it has a special place in my heart. I always love going by it, flying into it or spending time at it. That’s hard to say about too many other airports. I guess you can call me a little sentimental…
Descent into the Toronto area:
Toronto Pearson seen from the Northeast:
Landing in Toronto:
DSC_1475 by Capt_Vio, on Flickr
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Our little “bus” parked at the gate in Toronto:
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Date: Thursday June 7 2012
Airline: Air Canada Jazz
Flight No: : AC 7753
Aircraft: : De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102 (cn171)
Registration: : C-FPON
Departure: : Toronto Lester B. Pearson Int. Airport (YYZ/CYYZ) (12:20)
Arrival: : Windsor Airport (YQG/CYQG) (13:26)
Flight Time : 1h 5m
We had quite a bit of time to kill, so we had a light breakfast and coffee from Canadian famous Tim Hortons and then made our way to the “regional” departure area on the ground floor of Terminal one. I was excited to see the new Air Canada Express painted Dash 8-400Q, but I knew I wasn’t too lucky to fly with one. Our aircraft to Windsor today, was a good old Dash 8-100. After passing the time looking at planes, talking to Gabriela and hoping to see some of my of my colleagues from Winnipeg who moved on to fly at Jazz we were finally ready to board. The boarding process was fast and we walked all the way to the end of the concourse and then exited outside, where I was able to snap some clear shots of the heavies around Terminal 1 & 3.
Toronto Pearson Terminal 1:
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And finally our “tired old bird”:
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The flight to Windsor was pretty quick, about an hour and 10 minutes, but most of the time I was busy with pictures / admiring the Souther Ontario scenery with all the beautiful lakes and rivers. We flew over Hamilton, near Waterloo, London and South of Sarnia, and started our descent into Windsor somewhere over Lake St. Clair. We intercepted the ILS for runway 25, which brought us right over the neighborhood where I grew up and started loving aviation by watch Air Ontario and Canadian Regional Dash 8 / ATRs land. I was also able to spot the house I grew up in. The service on Air Canada Jazz was pretty good, considering the length of the leg.
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I think this is Kitchener / Waterloo Airport. Can anyone confirm this?
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This is either Kitchener or London, Ontario. I’m not quite sure.
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Standard Jazz service:
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The river just South of Sarnia, Ontario. On the far side of the river, is Michigan, USA and the close side it’s Ontario, Canada
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Briefly entering US Airspace:
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Descending into Windsor, over Lake St. Clair
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St. Clair Beach & Peche Island (part of Canada) can be seen (the first island) as well as the Detroit River
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The house I grew up in, somewhere over the small city of Windsor, Ontario. Everytime I would hear a plane on approach, I would run outside or to the window to see it:
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The house I grew up in, and if you look to the North, passed the river, you can see Detroit. This is one of the few places in Canada, where you will find USA if you go North.
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The newly improved / renovated Windsor Airport:
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Our bird after arriving from Toronto:
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The street-side of the airport
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After collecting our bags, we were created by family members. We spent the Thursday and Friday catching up with family and friends that we haven’t seen in years. I was also excited to see my little sister who would arrive later that day into Detroit, after three exhausting flights from Brisbane, Australia (via SYD & LAX). I haven’t seen her since January 2009, since she’s been a student in Australia for the past 4 years, just about to finish med school. She managed to arrange school schedule so she can attend my wedding. I was super excited. Friday was also a pretty busy day doing the final touches for the wedding, including church rehearsals with our wedding party.
The wedding was a great success, something like my “Big Fat Greek Wedding”, except we called it “My Big Fat Romanian Wedding”, but overall the same idea . After getting married at the local Romanian Church, we had a great reception and everyone partied until the early morning hours of the day. A few close friends & family ended up staying with us until 4:00am when finally decided to call it “a day”… and what a day it was. I was extremely happy to marry the girl of my dreams and looking forward not only to a great honeymoon, but a lifetime sharing every moment with her.
My wife and I walking out of the church after being married:
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The happiest day of our lives (so far…)
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Even though we arrived at 4:00am from the wedding, we didn’t have much time to rest. By the time we got any sleep it was already daylight outside and even then, we must’ve had a couple of hours only. Guests started coming over for the traditional “morning after the wedding party” which already started at 9:00am in our backyard. Close friends and family came and we had beers, a ton of food that was left over from the wedding, including cabbage rolls and we ended up spending most of the morning laughing and having a great time. Unfortunately it was time for us (Gabriela and I) to head to the airport, because we had tickets booked for our honeymoon to the Cook Islands. I must say, that even though I was extremely excited to go on this trip with my wife, I was a little disappointed we weren’t able to spend a few more days with my family, especially my sister which I missed so much.
Date: Sunday June 10 2012
Airline: Air Canada Jazz
Flight No: : AC 7754
Aircraft: : De Havilland Canada DHC-8-102 (cn199)
Registration: : C-FGRM
Departure: : Windsor Airport (YQG/CYQG) (13:50)
Arrival: : Toronto Lester B. Pearson Int. Airport (YYZ/CYYZ) (14:45)
Flight Time : 1h 5m
Considering how small Windsor is, it took us less than 10 minutes to drive from my parents’ house to the Windsor Airport. We quickly checked in and we were issued boarding passes for the first two flights, Windsor-Toronto and Toronto-Los Angeles. The Air Canada Jazz agent said she could not give us boarding passes for the Los-Angeles to Rarotonga leg and that we would have to get either in Toronto or from the Air New Zealand counter at LAX. She was quite surprised we were going that far and was extremely nice, wishing us a (sincere) nice trip and honeymoon.
Once we got through security we finally relaxed and switched to “VACATION MODE”. The crazy preparations and “stress” with the wedding was behind us and now we were both looking forward to a dream vacation, even though we were nothing short of exhausted, having slept so little, not to mention the early morning beers I had with “Nashu” (our wedding Godfather), my dad and everyone else who decided to be crazy enough and start partying again.
Familiar Dash 8 that would take us to Toronto:
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My wife boarding this Dash 8 that has seen better days. I think it’s ready for a fresh AC Express paint, eh?
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Take off from YQG – Windsor Airport
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Pearson Airport seen from the SouthWest, Terminal 1 and 3 are clearly visible, as well as the massive 401 Expressway, just South of the airport:
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Landing in Toronto:
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Downsview Airport, Toronto, “Bombardier’s Airport”
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Some new -400Qs and Bombardier business jets, freshly off the assembly line:
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Downtown Toronto & its iconic CN Tower (Canadian National Tower)
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Terminal 3 at YYZ:
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The flight from Windsor was non-eventful. Pretty much the same route, except this time we landed on runway 24R I believe. After landing in Toronto, our bird receives a walk-around from the F/O, a good guy I met that used to fly for Perimeter in Winnipeg. I can’t remember his name, but we saw each other often while he was here and we recognized each other right away. I’m glad to see him move on and he said he was very happy at Jazz. Good luck to him…
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Once in Toronto we collected all our bags and went through US Customs (preclearance). Basically for us Canadians, we see US Customs here in Canada and once we arrive in US we don’t have to worry about the long ass lines that are formed when some 4 747s land at once from Asia (I have a story about that one in Part 3 of this report). The customs officer in Toronto was an extremely dull, yet hilarious guy, something along the lines of Ben Stein. My wife and I had to try really hard not to laugh, because he seemed to be a great mood and making jokes (with Ben Stein’s monotone voice)… I always try to be polite and to the point with customs officials.
Once through US Customs, we still had two hours to wait, so we had a quick bite to eat, drank some beer and watched some football (Euro 2012 was on). I spent the rest of the time plane spotting and my wife was way too much into her new book.